A digital revolution is sweeping the fashion world. And this revolution will be blogged, streamed, and tweeted instantaneously.
Web 2.0, which describes the interactive second wave of Internet use, heralds a more egalitarian way for designers and shoppers to reach each other, says Andre Milman, a fashion instructor at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s absolutely a democratic revolution in fashion,” says Milman, who also teaches seminars on blogging in his spare time.
Like Web 1.0, the fashion establishment has long dictated a one-way message to its audience, with little room for a two-way conversation, Milman says. Today, Web 2.0 facilitates open communication among fashion bloggers, designers, and fashion followers.
Fashion’s digital generation uses blogs, live streaming of runway shows, e-commerce, social networking sites, and video uploads to compete with the hierarchical fashion establishment.
“Where the real creativity lies in fashion is not only the creativity of the product line itself,” Milman says. “It’s the creativity of the marketing strategy, understanding your own brand, and placing yourself on the web in an original and innovative way.”
By nature prone to jumping on the latest trends, some fashionistas are adopting blogs and social networking sites as a fashionable novelty, Milman says, rather than treating them as effective professional tools for promotion and communication. He suggests that emerging designers who want to make the most of the digital revolution should identify professional goals before deciding which social media tool to use. Otherwise, he says, the increasingly chaotic social networking world will overwhelm them.
Erin Creaney, a fashion instructor at The Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg, uses Facebook and Twitter to market events for her e-commerce boutique, Studio-808. The Studio-808 blog, along with a chorus of traditional media sources and other bloggers, chronicled the recent runway shows at Fashion Focus Chicago 2009.
“Anyone who has a camera and a blog has an opinion,” Creaney says, adding that she’s seen designers pick up relevant blog snippets to use as press and to push their collections on social networking sites. “I have designers who take our blog and pass it on to their list as a validation of what they’re doing. That force is really strong because it’s an unedited voice.”
The outpouring of commentary at Chicago’s fashion week is a reflection of the sea change occurring on the global fashion stage. Imran Amed, a fashion business advisor and founder of The Business of Fashion blog, says he saw an explosion of interactivity during the most recent fashion week season.
“We saw bloggers being given very good treatment just like other professional journalists,” Amed says. “Before, fashion shows were a closed little club of industry-only people participating. Through the Fashion 2.0 technologies, that experience can be shared with a much larger audience all over the world.”
The Business of Fashion coined the Fashion 2.0 heading to house all of the posts exploring fashion’s use of Web 2.0. According to Amed, the fashion industry is beginning to embrace Web 2.0 for three reasons: the unavoidable, high-profile popularity of blogging and social networking technology; the allure of online marketing as a cheap alternative to traditional advertising in a difficult economy; and continuing improvements in the quality of internet technology, such as streaming video.
Rony Zeidan, whose advertising and design agency RO NEW YORK caters to high-end fashion and beauty brands, is working with a technology application called Style Setter to help brands manage their online messaging and the traffic flow among every portal. By controlling the brand communication on social media and blogs, companies can collect data and better focus their online strategy and presence, Zeidan says. He gives an example of an online poll that engages customers by asking which of five colors they prefer in a shirt.
“It creates a buzz like traditional PR,” Zeidan says. “It’s good for word of mouth.”
For other online fashionistas, Web 2.0 eliminates the need to leave home to get a taste of the glamorous life. Virtual world fashion designer and blogger Tina Echevarria flexes her sartorial talents in Second Life, an online fantasy space populated with avatars who shop for designer clothing and model in runway shows.
Echevarria, whose real-life job is in IT project and staffing support, joined Second Life in 2007. She began designing virtual clothing and producing her own fashion-based animated show online using her personal avatar, Scarlett Niven. To Echevarria, virtual worlds allow her to play with fashion – designing and producing fashion collections to sell in her virtual store - without spending as much money as she would in real life.
“I can buy a replica of a $10,000 Christian Dior dress and wear it on my avatar,” Echevarria says. “You get that same satisfaction, to an extent, of owning something you wouldn’t be able to afford in real life or would not pay for in real life.”
Amed, of The Business of Fashion, says the next big trend in Fashion 2.0 is the shift from static 2-D images to moving images in the form of fashion films. The houses of Chanel and Dior, for example, have created fashion films that tell a story around their brands, Amed says. A recent two-minute flick promoting Chanel No. 5 fragrance, for instance, shows French actress Audrey Tautou rushing to catch the Orient Express, then captivating the attention of a male passenger once aboard. Other fashion films are more about mood, creating a spirit around a certain collection, he says.
For Amed, the most innovative use of the fashion film came from designer Alexander McQueen. During the most recent McQueen show in Paris, a fashion film played on the backdrop of the runway behind the models, while twin robotic cameras beamed the presentation live across the world. Fashion’s great spectacles, once the exclusive domain of the fashion elite, are now immediately accessible to anyone in the world with an internet connection.
“The experience itself of the show felt like it was very modern and almost postmodern,” Amed says, calling McQueen’s show the most exciting Fashion 2.0 moment of the season. “It felt like it was looking forward, and that was reflected in the style of the clothes on the runway.”
Says Amed: “It was this reflection of a new world.”
Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite
Contributing writer for EDMC.